Apparently it may seem like two completely different problems, but childhood obesity and eating disorders that may develop in adolescence or adulthood actually have much in common. Both diseases are characterized by the presence of unhealthy eating patterns, too little or too much exercise and psychological discomfort such as low self-esteem and inability to accept one’s body. As if that were not enough, several studies have found that at least 43% of obese adolescents have suffered from eating disorders. We talk about this issue with Martina Mura, dietician of Humanitas.
Who is at risk for DED and why?
Obesity is considered a risk factor in the development of eating disorders (DED) such as anorexia and bulimia. Not infrequently the same disorder from uncontrolled feeding leads the patient to become first overweight and then obese, as well as anorexia nervosa may be the reaction to a previous problem of being overweight. Studies show that overweight teenagers are up to 5 times more likely to develop eating disorders than normal weight teenagers: obese weight-losing children may develop anorexia nervosa and bulimia if slimming efforts become a major concern in their lives. Similarly, according to researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, adolescents who do not exercise are 2 to 4 times more at risk of developing these diseases.
Vulnerability and social factors: the importance of example
A study of 130 overweight adolescents found that strong conflicts with family members and peers resulted in a higher likelihood of disorderly eating thoughts and behaviors, as well as depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. The more children are asked to comment on their weight, the more likely they are to develop disorders based on eating disorders. Sharing meals with the family can help promote healthy eating habits in children and reduce their chances of developing unhealthy eating habits.
“Although a weight loss is desirable in overweight or obese children – concluded Mura – it is important to be able to recognize early when this happens in a balanced way and when the slimming is too rapid, obtained with drastic behavior, it is accompanied by excessive concern for the shape of the body and brings with it effects on the health of the child. Eating disorders have a chronic pattern, with high relapse rates and significant damage to health: it is essential to recognize and treat them early”.